Early Experiences

My first recollection of London occurred on a train trip with Finlay Junior School (probably 23 April 1955). I had surprised my form teacher by signing up to go on an excursion to Wembley for a schoolboy international (I was not interested in football!)  According to TI, three Gloucester locos (Nos. 7006, 5907/51) were recorded as taking specials to this match. Here I got my first sight of an ex-LNER locomotive when I saw one of the ‘A3’ Pacifics, No. 60044 Melton passing through Wembley Hill on a GC express. This was a Leicester engine, but would shortly be transferred to New England, being replaced by No. 60111.

My early experiences of the London rail scene were coloured to some extent by what I had read in the railway press. I have little record of my early trips, but they were always by train to Paddington. The journey became more exciting on reaching Didcot. At the Moreton cutting marshalling yards it was quite common to see SR locos of various classes, including ‘Q1s’ and ‘S15s’ on transfer freights from the Southern Region. Once east of Didcot, local services became common, and on earlier trips had been mainly composed of rakes of WR non-corridor coaches in plain maroon livery, hauled by one of the many ‘6100’ class Prairie tanks common on these duties. However, these would be replaced in late 1959 by Pressed Steel outer suburban 3-car DMUs.

The yards at Acton also frequently contained ‘strangers’ – steam locos from other regions working cross-London transfer freights. Once across Wormwood Scrubs, Hawksworth’s ‘1500’ class 0-6-0PTs would be seen on ECS duties to and from Old Oak Common carriage sheds. These duties survived until August 1963, although Nos. 1501/2/9 of the class, noted at Swindon works in October 1960, were reported as being with Bagnalls, Stafford in June 1961, and later used by the NCB at Coventry Colliery. Another interesting class of locomotive peculiar to this area were the condensing-fitted 0-6-0PTs in the 9700-10 batch, which could be seen occasionally penetrating the ‘Widened Lines’ between LT Circle or District line trains on freight duties: indeed, I remember seeing one travelling through Edgware Road underground station on the Metropolitan Line!  LT acquired a few of the earlier members of the ‘5700’ class in 1957 to replace superannuated locos used for engineering duties.

My first trip to London sheds may have been as early as 25 April 1957, when a Gloucestershire LSC trip was organised to Willesden (1A), Camden (1B), Kentish Town (14B), Stratford (30A), Kings Cross (34A), and Old Oak Common (81A). However, the first trip I positively remember was on Tuesday 17 April 1958. Visits were made to Stratford shed and works, with 226 locos recorded here. We also visited Plaistow (33A), which had received an allocation of Standard 2-6-4Ts for the LTS Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness line. The mainstay of the fleet on this line were the unusual Stanier 3-cylinder 2-6-4Ts all of which were based at Shoeburyness (33C). This was the only time I would see locos of this sub-class, as electrification of the LTS line was already programmed. Electric multiple units for the LTS line were under construction at York by then, but full electrification of the LTS section did not occur until 18 June 1962 due to difficulties in commissioning the new rolling-stock.

Shed bashing was a bit different from standing waiting for the trains to come by, and it became difficult to know what you were seeing as so many of the classes were unknown.  It was probably only the passenger locos that registered.  These included the SR ‘Schools’, GE ‘Footballers’, and the GN-line Pacifics.  Diesels were just being introduced, the first manifestation of the Modernisation Plan, but it did not matter to us: they were new and exciting.  

On Thursday 9 April 1959 I took another LSC trip to London by train. A fleet of London Transport RF private hire coaches met us at Paddington (I remember them because of the roof-lights above the luggage racks).  We did many of the main sheds in London: Willesden (1A), 1B (Camden), 14A (Cricklewood), 14B (Kentish Town), 34E (Neasden), 34A (Kings Cross), 70A (Nine Elms), 73A (Stewarts Lane) and 73B (Bricklayers Arms). SR EMUs were copped by the dozen just by looking up at the viaducts outside Stewart’s Lane depot.

On 21 April 1960 I missed another LSC trip to London sheds, so on 30 April I decided to go up to London on a service train to take a few local trips from other London termini. On this occasion, en route from Charing Cross to Dartford I saw Nos. 31498, 31910, and 34035/78 – steam still being in evidence despite the introduction of diesels prior to the imminent commissioning of the second phase of the Kent Coast electrification. This happened in June, and there then occurred a major reallocation of SR steam away from Eastern Division sheds. Steam was also still in use on the Central section out of Victoria despite the electrification of the Brighton line in 1933, and I noted on the way to Streatham Nos. 31263, 31915 and 34088; whilst one of the WR 0-6-0PTs, No. 4681, transferred in 1959 to the SR to replace elderly pre-grouping Southern locomotives was seen at Clapham Junction. A visit to Kings Cross found ‘A2’ Pacific No. 60508 Duke of Rothesay, and a run out to Watford Junction produced several Stanier ‘3’ 2-6-2s, No. 49070 and No. 61177. However, D200 class locos were already in use on the line out of Euston. Finally, I saw ‘Schools’ 4-4-0 No. 30903 Charterhouse at Reading, which had taken to cross-country work following completion of phase 1 (Chatham to Dover) of the Kent electrification and introduction of diesels to the Hastings line.

On 3 August 1960, the Gloucestershire Holiday Express took us to Windsor, so I took the opportunity to travel from there by local train to Waterloo, via Feltham, which is described elsewhere.

On the Eastern Division of the Southern Region, I never experienced steam apart from shed visits to 73A, 73B and 73C, but I do particularly remember seeing ‘E2’ 0-6-0Ts (Nos.32101, etc.) and ‘C’ class 0-6-0s at Bricklayers Arms.  I only ever saw a few of the SECR 4-4-0s of ‘D1’, ‘E1’ and ‘L1’ classes, and they were always on shed trips. One of my main regrets was that I never saw any of the Marsh Atlantics although the final one, No. 32424 Beachy Head was much in demand for special trains as late as 1958. By 1959, the progression of the electrification of the Kent Coast line meant the only SE locos I saw in action were those later cascaded to the Brighton line, or on lines out of Waterloo.

I mentioned above my first acquaintance with the Great Central during a trip to Wembley in the mid-fifties. The southern end of the GC lines at that time was still populated by LNER locos. ‘A3s’ supplemented by ‘V2s’ were regular performers on the main expresses to Sheffield and Manchester, having taken over from the ‘B17s’ brief reign before the war, and yet earlier ‘D11s’ and the famous 4-4-2s. ‘B16s’ from the York area were still working to London on longer distance trains. WR locos were also on Neasden’s allocation in the late forties, working amongst other turns the Princes Risborough branch. However, in 1954 the shed still retained a GC atmosphere, with ‘N5’ 0-6-2Ts and ‘A5’ 4-6-2Ts on its allocation, and ‘L1s’ for suburban work. In June 1955 Neasden received LMS 2-6-4Ts from the LTS line, replacing ‘L1s’ transferred to 34A. In April 1955, No. 68662 was reallocated to Neasden for use on the Watlington branch but was not suitable so was used for a time instead as Harrow pilot. Other LNER classes seen included ‘K3’ (from Colwick), ‘O1’ and ‘O4’ (from Annesley), and Ivatt tanks. My memory of Neasden shed from our visit in April 1959 was of a dirty ash-littered place inhabited by Standard 2-6-4Ts. Latterly, the GC line was also used to run-in GT3 between Loughborough and Nottingham when it was first under test.     

Over at Kings Cross, ‘N2s’ and ‘L1s’ were the mainstay of suburban services in the late fifties, often hauling pairs of Gresley ‘Quad’ sets (4-car articulated train sets). However, by early 1955 the GN 4-car articulated suburban sets were being replaced by Standard 5 coach non-corridor sets.  ‘N2s’ were fitted with condensing apparatus and small chimneys to enable them to work the ‘widened lines’ to Moorgate. Cascading of motive power was occurring even then, with the ‘L1s’ from Neasden replacing ‘N2s’ on empty coaching stock workings, which had previously replaced ‘J52s’. Most Pacifics were from Eastern Region sheds, as locos were often changed at locations such as Grantham, although Leeds Copley Hill provided ‘A1s’, York provided ‘A1s’ and ‘A2s’, whilst Gateshead provided the occasional ‘A4’. On one occasion, probably in summer 1958, the gathering at the end of the main departure platform was greatly excited by the appearance of No. 60532 Blue Peter ex-works from Doncaster, far from its Ferryhill home. Later the D200 class would start to supersede Pacifics on expresses out of King’s Cross.

A variety of steam could still be recorded on the Great Eastern line, despite electrification out of Liverpool Street and early dieselisation. On visits to Stratford to East Anglia I managed to see 27 ‘B17s’, despite the scrapping of most of the class relatively early. Of the locos I saw, one of the original ‘B17/1s’ No. 61629 Naworth Castle was withdrawn in September 1959, along with many others of the class, but another of the ‘Footballers’ I’d seen, No. 61668 Bradford City was not withdrawn until August 1960. ‘B17s’ from 31A still worked the Cambridge Buffet Expresses out of Kings Cross occasionally, although I never saw one there. Our trips to 30A, 31A and 31B also enabled us to see 4 ‘B12s’, 13 ‘D16s’ at March and Spital Bridge, and 2 E4s Nos. 62788/97. I always found ‘D16s’ interesting locos, the nearest place at which one might turn up being Oxford on a service from Cambridge. Some of Lincoln’s allocation could also turn up at Nottingham on occasion. Other classes seen included ‘J15s’, ‘J17s’, ‘J69s’, ‘N7s’ and ‘L1s’.